Interview by Michela Coslovich
All Images © Anastasia Dumitrescu
Anastasia Dumitrescu (Romania, 1989) is a multimedia artist and performer based in Transylvania.
After a degree at The National University of Performative Art and Cinema, she attends a master on The Theory of Practice of the Image at The Centre of Excellency in Visual Studies in Bucharest. Her research is based on a post-phenomenological approach to geography and the theories of feminist new materialism. She uses interdisciplinary intersections between photography, video art, sound design and installations. She is the co-founder of Hyphen, an audio-visual platform where she performs as part of the experimental duo NAAUM.
Michela Coslovich (MC): Hello Anastasia and welcome to Pellicola Magazine. Could you tell us something about yourself and your relationship with photography?
Anastasia Dumitrescu (AD): Hi Michela, thank you. My name is Anastasia Dumitrescu, I am a Romanian photographer who works and lives in Transylvania.
My relationship with photography developed slowly in recent years. During my visual studies at the academic stage, I became interested in the nature of perception and vision and I started researching theories of perception and how the world becomes visible to us. This prompted in me the need to explore this theoretical field in a more practical and experimental way. Photography became the first medium, tool and companion in my landscape explorations and it did remain as such. I would say that for me, photography acted as an instrument of understanding and exploring the visible and its mechanics, in the beginning and later it developed into making what is seen as a form of perception or imaging. One could apprehend a landscape as the construction of a view, as a process of mental representation. In my approach, landscape is apprehended not just as a matter of construction but more of engagement, not of building but of dwelling, not of making a view of the world but of gathering a view from it.
(MC): Which are the issues you prefer to address within your works?
(AD): I feel concerned with issues regarding new ecologies that encourage recognizing more-than-human agency alongside a more inclusive way of understanding the environment, not as passive terrain but as an expressive and lively ecosystem of living and nonliving entities. I concern myself with the narratives seen at play between meaning and matter, humans, non-humans, and the environment. These latent streams of invisible narratives and meanings that shape our perception are sometimes surfacing through the visible shapes and vestiges of the landscape. Recent environmental research has emphasized the importance of encounter as a perspective for better grasping the complexity of entanglement in our more-than-human world. Meaning is created in the very process of our engagements and interactions with the world, and we come to understand things through joining with them in mutual processes of becomings that widen interpretation and invite for new pathways of response.
(MC): “Dwelled” investigates the concept of liminal space, intended as places of transition or transformation. Could you tell us how the project was born and how it developed?
(AD): In anthropology liminality is the condition of ambiguity and disorientation that occurs in the transitional phase of a passage from the previous condition to the next one. The temporary dissolution of order and customs during liminality creates a fluid and flexible situation that enables a free form approach. “Dwelled” started as such a free form exploration of the liminal spaces and contact zones between the city and the countryside and explores the ever-shifting state of places, their intrinsic narratives and connections among the various natural and manmade elements. The nomad, the navigator of liminal landscapes, explores the uncertain topographies that he is temporally inhabiting. Like a nomad, the dweller is himself a temporary visitor and exists in a constant state of flux and becoming, being at home everywhere and nowhere. Divided between observation, intervention and interpretation, the dweller’s movements and actions are spontaneous reactions and responses to the surrounding changes and fluctuations. Liminality gives access to these always-in-the-making processes and the project explores the fluctuating evolution of things, the stages of transformation, growth and decay encountered in the landscape and reflected in one’s attitudes.
(MC): The anthropologist Marc Augé defines as “non-places” all those non-identity spaces: could you explain what prompted you to take interest in them?
(AD): I was investigating the idea of spaces that are transitory. In this regard the notion of non-places could come into play. Places that are somehow placeless but come out as not being emptied of meaning and memory. Spaces of transience where human presence retains its anonymity but shares a collective identity. The perception of a space like a non-place is subjective. Perceived as a crossroad of human relations and activities, such places are ambivalent in that they are at once spaces of transition and stasis, mobility and immobility, place and non-place, memory and oblivion. The notion of taskscape understood as a pattern of activities ‘collapsed’ into an array of features” (Time Ingold) helped reveal some aspects related to these apparently empty spaces of transition and labor where one can encounter vestiges and traces of our collective behaviors and identities. Taskscapes as well as landscapes, are to be contemplated as perpetually in process rather than in a static state, never complete but continually under construction. I was drawn to the anonymous, dynamic and hybrid character of such non-places, by the abstract, and free form method they invite to be approached with.
(MC): Which are your biggest sources of inspiration, photographic and otherwise?
(AD): In recent years my inspiration came primarily from books. From theories of new ecologies to the more poetic and growing philosophical literature on vegetable life and plant sentience, non-human agency, nature and perception. Anthropology had been an important source and influence primarily through the writings of Tim Ingold on ecological anthropology and material culture that provided valuable sources of inspiration, reflection and research. Some of the books and studies that were pivotal to my practice are Vibrant matter by Janne Bennett, The spell of the Sensuous by David Abraham, The poetics of space by Gaston Bachelard, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception by James J. Gibson, Phenomenology of Perceptionby Maurice Merleau-Ponty and several books by Tim Ingold such as Making and The perception of the environment.
(MC): What is the role of visual arts in these times?
(AD): Art and artists reflect each other and their surroundings. To speak of the role of visual art in these times becomes a matter of understanding the current issues, challenges and shifts that our society and environment face. According to Zygmunt Bauman, we are currently undergoing a transition from a stable and certain modernity to a liquid one that is constantly changing both its visibility and identity. The role of visual art today is as fluctuating as the movement of thoughts and ideas, changing constantly, evolving and adapting with a fevered pace that mirrors our society and our behavior dynamics. I do not see the purpose of art as being one that changes people’s minds in a political or social manner, but rather one that alters our relationships with the surroundings. Visual art could call upon shaping new affective ecologies and sensibilities that will conduct toward a more open, inclusive, dynamic, intuitive, and non-exploitative way to relate to the world and to others.
(MC): Which is the output of your projects? Do you prefer to imagine them as future books, an exhibition or something else? Why?
(AD): The output of my projects is usually an exhibition or installation. I am really interested in expanding my photographic practice giving it a more spatial and sculptural character. I also find books and author publications to be a palpable and more intimate way of approaching a photographic project. I would say that I like to combine the two outputs depending on the nature of the project but nevertheless both of them could enter in a fruitful dialogue.
(MC): What’s in your future?
(AD): The last years have been very focused on research and artwork production. I feel the coming period will be more into making publications and presenting several projects in a solo show and a multimedia exhibition.
(MC): Thank for your time Anastasia, I hope you enjoyed!
(AD): Thank you Michela for this rewarding opportunity to present my work.